Bucs' closer's role isn't etched in stone

Bucs' closer's role isn't etched in stone

PITTSBURGH -- Neal Huntington sees the battle for the Pirates' closing role as a competition, not a controversy.

Neither the Pirates general manager nor skipper John Russell would deem Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan as the club's closer following the trade of Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers at the Deadline last week. But consecutive poor outings from Hanrahan on Friday and Saturday have brought new questions about the job.

Huntington remained steadfast in his belief that one man alone may not be needed to provide stability to the role, saying the most important outs can often come in the seventh or eighth inning.

"You can look back over the last five-seven years and you can see World Series championship teams that have change closers once, twice, maybe even three times during the season," Huntington said. "So while it's ideal, no, I don't believe we think it's an absolute necessity. And in Joel and in Evan we feel we've got two pitchers that are capable of closing out games on given nights."

Hanrahan entered Friday's action having allowed five runs over his past 27 innings -- 27 outings -- but he has now given up five runs over the past two games after surrendering a game-tying three-run home run to Ian Stewart in the ninth inning on Saturday. Hanrahan's ERA, which was 3.40 prior to Friday, is now 4.20.

"We'll see how things go for the rest of this year," Huntington said. "And if we end up with two guys closing our games for us for the rest of this year, and it works out fine, maybe we go into it next year. If one guy definitively grabs the job and runs with it, then we have our answer."